Did he lead you to DI Anderson?
Oh, no. Anderson sorts things out. He would stop on the motorway and pump up little old ladies’ tires. He’s just a nice bloke, but because he’s a nice bloke, he’s quite difficult to write. It’s very easy to make him boring. I don’t want too many pages of internal wrangling with his feelings for ladies who are not his wife. I want to make him endearing and nice, but charismatically evil people are much easier to write.
Did you conceive Anderson and Costello as the Scottish Mulder and Scully?
I don’t know about their longevity, because book five is a standalone, but they kept butting in. You see them through someone else’s eyes, and it’s quite interesting for me. Rather than being in their heads, I’m in the head of the person who is interviewed by them both. I get to look at them how the reader looks at them, and I’m not kind about them, which is a bit shocking, seeing as I gave birth to them.
If you were to meet them, what would your first conversation be about?
Oh, me and Costello would sit and gossip about him, what he’s getting up to, and who his eyes are on. More than that, though, we would gossip about Mulholland, because he’s an annoying person. He’s very easy to write. Moira MacMillan sent me an email, saying how much she was willing Costello on when she punched Mulholland in the face. Yeah, that’s the reaction I wanted to provoke.
How has your relationship with your characters changed over the years?
I don’t think it has. I’ve got these people living in my head, and that’s fine. I have to confess they don’t grow. They’re just there. They go ‘bing’ and that’s them. You may as well ask me how my relationship with my sister develops. Well, it just is. I know Mark Billingham and Ian Rankin say they’re in charge of their characters, but I’m one of those writers whose characters don’t do as they’re told. Mine do what they do. I think of them as people who live in my head, and I’m not necessarily in charge of them.
How and how often do they surprise you?
Och, all the time. He’s suffering from more and more self-doubt and she’s got more and more ‘I don’t give a shit – I’m going for it’.
Do they personify conflicting aspects of your own personality?
I’ve wrestled with that, and I honestly don’t know. They’re just there. Sometimes, I’ll invent a character and it’s as if they’re there on the page, readymade. I never have to think about it or write wee cards for them. That would be like reminding myself about my other half. I know that. I don’t have to write it down. That would just be bizarre. Although, having them live in your head is probably the sign of some mental illness. Eh, I’ll go along with that.
Do you think that might have something to do with becoming a writer quite late in life?
Yes, and although I’ve always been a very good liar, I never had any inkling to write.